What Is Astaxanthin?

By Brandi Black, RHN

Image by: @BCC

    Move over Vitamin C, you have antioxidant competition in town, and it’s a marine microalga called astaxanthin.  Astaxanthin (pronounced asta-zan-thin) is often referred to as “The King of Carotenoids,” and is becoming increasingly popular for its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. But what is astaxanthin exactly?

    If you’re not familiar with carotenoids, they’re a class of plant pigments that act as powerful antioxidants and give plants their bright colors. One carotenoid you may already be familiar with is beta-carotene, the antioxidant form of vitamin A, which gives pumpkins their bright orange hue. Astaxanthin is found in green and coral colored pigment in algae and certain marine animals such as salmon, lobster, and shrimp.

    But astaxanthin has far more antioxidant power than beta-carotene. In fact, studies have shown that the antioxidant activity of astaxanthin is significantly stronger than beta-caroteneantioxidant, vitamin E, lycopene, and lutein.

Why is Astaxanthin Superior to Other Antioxidants?

    Now, it’s one thing to say that astaxanthin has extreme antioxidant power. But what is it about astaxanthin that allows it to be superior to other carotenoids and antioxidant vitamins?

    The reason why astaxanthin is so powerful is due to its unique structure, which allows it to function as an antioxidant in a much different way.

    You see, most antioxidant vitamins and minerals lose their antioxidant function after they’ve disarmed a free radical— similar to how a honey bee dies after it stings you. But astaxanthin remains active after it’s disarmed a free radical, which gives it much more antioxidant potential. Furthermore, astaxanthin has also been shown to disarm several free radicals at one time, not just one free radical like most antioxidants.

How Antioxidants Keep You Healthy

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  • Antioxidants are nutrients that help disarm the free radicals, or toxins, that can destroy our cells. As mentioned above, antioxidants are found abundantly in plant foods as carotenoids. Certain organic vitamins also act as antioxidants, including vitamins A, E, and C.

  • Antioxidants are so important to include in our diets because they help prevent toxins from damaging our cells. You see, we absorb several toxins through our bloodstream each day— whether that’s from pollution in the air we breathe, pesticides on the food we eat, or chemicals in the household and body care products we use regularly— no one is exempt from toxin exposure. Mold, gluten, refined sugar and trans-fats can also cause cellular damage, in addition to the body’s natural metabolic processes.

  • When we absorb toxins, they can cause cellular oxidation. Oxidation permanently damages the structure of our cells and can be the root cause of several serious and irreversible health conditions. Neurodegenerative diseases, autoimmune conditions and severe inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis have all been linked to cellular oxidation.

  • Preventing the occurrence of these devastating health conditions is only one reason to include antioxidants in your diet. By improving your cellular health with antioxidants, you’ll also experience more energy, get sick less often and maintain your youth— internally and externally.

Health Benefits of Astaxanthin

    We’ve touched on the strength of astaxanthin as an antioxidant, but what are astaxanthin’s health benefits? Astaxanthin has been proven to reduce cellular damage, which makes it a key nutrient for disease prevention and improving several areas of health and wellness. Here are a few other health benefits of astaxanthin:

  • Improved vision

  • Natural body detox

  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease

  • Increased energy levels

  • A stronger immune system

  • Improved skin elasticity and texture

    The fact that astaxanthin acts as a natural anti-inflammatory should also be stressed as a valuable health benefit. In addition to cellular damage (which is a form of inflammation in itself), chronic inflammation is the root cause of all disease.

    In fact, today’s modern diet and lifestyle are full of factors that cause chronic inflammation, such as stress, toxins, a lack of sleep and exercise, and a diet rich in pro-inflammatory foods such as wheat, dairy, gluten, and meat. As you can see, anti-inflammatory nutrients such as astaxanthin are needed in our diets more than ever before.

    Astaxanthin has also been shown to reduce high blood pressure in rats with hypertension, as well as lower the body’s insulin response in diabetic mice. These studies further support the use of astaxanthin as an antioxidant to protect against chronic diseases associated with inflammation.

How to Get Astaxanthin in Your Diet

    Astaxanthin can be purchased as a nutritional supplement in many health food stores, however, there’s limited research about its bioavailability when taken in capsule form. For this reason, you may want to ask the manufacturer about its efficacy as a nutritional supplement before purchasing. A high-quality astaxanthin supplement will typically use haematococcuspluvialis as the astaxanthin source, which is from marine microalgae.

    Whether you choose to take astaxanthin as a nutritional supplement or not, there are several food sources that also contain astaxanthin:

  • Wild Pacific sockeye salmon

  • Shrimp

  • Krill

  • Lobster

  • Crab

  • Red trout

    As you can see, astaxanthin is found in most seafood that has a light pinkish color when they’re cooked. Some health experts recommend avoiding over-cooking seafood to preserve the astaxanthin content, as it may deplete when exposed to extremely high temperatures.

 Astaxanthin and Your Skin 

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    Now, astaxanthin may be a good nutrient to include in your diet. But it could also be the new holy grail of your skin care routine. 
    As mentioned above, eating foods rich in astaxanthin can help improve the texture of your skin, based on its ability to improve cellular health. But studies have shown astaxanthin has another unique health benefit to offer when applied topically: protection against the sun. 

    Astaxanthin has been shown to have full photoprotective effects, which no other antioxidant has been shown to have. This means astaxanthin can help reduce the redness and inflammation associated with a sunburn when applied to the skin before exposure. 

    Since astaxanthin doesn’t have an SPF, it can’t protect against UV rays— but it’s the next best (and all-natural) way to protect your skin from wrinkles, premature aging, and spots caused by sun exposure. 

    If you’re wondering where to find an all-natural product that contains a high concentration of astaxanthin, look no further: we’ve recently introduced our latest skin cream, Astarella Primetime Skin Cream.

Now, if I could quickly share with you about my personal experience with Astarella so far

    I’ve been using Astarella Primetime Skin Cream since March of 2016, and I never cease to be impressed with the dewy texture of my skin when I wake up in the morning after applying Astarella the night before. Not only is my complexion completely clear, but my pores are smaller and my skin texture is considerably smoother than it was a few months ago.

Since I live in the Caribbean, one of my top priorities is caring for my skin properly, against the humidity and sunlight. While I still use a natural sunscreen to protect against sun damage, the photoprotective benefits of astaxanthin offer an extra boost of protection. In fact, my complexion looks so radiant that I no longer have to wear pore-clogging tinted moisturizers to even out my skin tone.
    I’m also pleased to announce that as a freckle-prone gal, I have not developed the usual freckles on my nose that appear religiously after spending time in the sun.

    Astarella Primetime Skin Cream features astaxanthin sourced from marine microalgae as one of the primary ingredients. But Astarella’s one-of-a-kind formula also includes several other natural skin care ingredients that help gently exfoliate, hydrate and maintain skin elasticity— such as jojoba oil, unrefined shea butter, meadowfoam seed oil and grapefruit seed oil. Astarella Primetime Skin Cream even contains Chlorella Growth Factor (CGF), which is an ingredient unique to the amazing green superfood: chlorella. CGF helps repair and regenerate cells for healthier looking skin. In my personal experience as a nutritionist, I have yet to find a 100% natural, chemical-free skin cream that can offer all of these benefits in one.

    And of course, a high-quality skin cream should also be free of toxins to maintain the integrity of the skin’s cells and prevent oxidative damage. Astarella Primetime Skin Cream is 100% toxin free and is formulated without parabens, gluten, artificial colors, and fragrances.